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Basic Income in Focus

Could universal basic income, the proposal that the government should give every individual a regular cash payment, really be around the corner? With wages stagnating and long-term employment hard to come by, more people seem to think so. It’s not just talk. From Finland to Barcelona to Scotland, European governments are seriously looking at basic income and organising pilots. Green movements have long debated, and often supported, basic income as a way to lead more sustainable lives, less dominated by work and consumption. But political support for basic income is not limited to Greens. Basic income is variously credited with being a new 21st-century form of solidarity, a way to boost economic growth, and a means to rebalance work between women and men. For every argument in its favour, there is a complementary counter waiting to be made. The debate opens up huge questions: political, economic, moral, and practical. Basic, will I be able to live off it? Cash, where will all this money come from? Unconditional, what if people just sit around? Individual, but what about society? To delve deeper, the Green European Journal spoke to experts and activists from around the world – some advocates, some critics. In the coming months, we will continue to follow basic income developments in Europe and beyond, not to advocate it, but because of the key questions it requires us ask.

An illustration showing the planet being sucked dry through a straw.1. Green Observatory: Basic Income

With some trials planned and others underway and the idea entering the political mainstream, basic income is at once a realistic and a utopian prospect. From France and Italy to Scotland and Switzerland, the Green European Journal asked experts, activists, and politicians from around Europe about the politics of basic income where they are.

 

Illustration: wind turbines and sustainability2. BASIC INCOME: INSIGHTS FROM FINLAND

As the Finnish experiment draws to a close, read our interview with social policy expert Heikki Hiilamo on the importance of universalism, what happened with basic income in Finland, and the radical/pragmatic divide in the basic income movement.

 

Illustration: A surfboarder surfing on a wave filled with rubbish3. THE PROGRESSIVE PACKAGE: GETTING UNIONS BEHIND BASIC INCOME

An interview with political scientist and basic income advocate Yannick Vanderborght on why trade unions tend to oppose basic income, whether we can expect that to change, and what is next for basic income in the next 10 years.

 

Illustration: an idealised green city4. FOR AN ECOLOGICAL TRANSITION INCOME

Inspired by basic income but less than convinced, philosopher and economist Sophie Swaton proposes an ecological transition income to fight hardship and safeguard the environment, while not forgoing the value of work. In this interview, we asked Sophie how her proposal would work in practice and for her take on basic income’s flaws.

 

5. A FAIR SHARE: RECLAIMING THE COMMONS WITH BASIC INCOME

Drawing on the experience of the Alaskan oil fund, this interview with activist Jorge Pinto and academic Michael Howard unpicks the links between basic income and ecological sustainability, from fighting environmental inequalities to escaping the compulsion to work and produce.

 

Illustration of a Parliament6. BASIC BUT TRANSFORMATIVE

Faced with the interwined threats of neoliberalism and authoritarianism, basic income offers Greens and progressives a positive vision for the future shaped around security, autonomy and social justice. Natalie Bennett and Adam Ostolski, former Green party leaders and basic income supporters, give their take on why society is crying out for a basic income and what its introduction would represent.

 

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